History of Gilbert and Sullivan

William S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) were the most popular musical theatre team of the Victorian era. Between 1871 and 1896, they collaborated on fourteen comic operas, of which H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado are the best known.

Gilbert, who wrote the words, created fanciful “topsy-turvy” worlds for these comic operas, where each absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion. Fairies rub elbows with British lords, flirting is a capital offense, gondoliers ascend to the monarchy, and pirates turn out to be noblemen who have gone wrong. Sullivan, six years Gilbert’s junior, composed the music, contributing memorable melodies that convey both humor and pathos.

Producer Richard D'Oyly Carte managed their often difficult partnership and built the Savoy Theatre for them in 1881. Their shows came to be called the Savoy Operas and their fans Savoyards. The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company performed and promoted Gilbert and Sullivan's works for over a century. Even after the company folded, their operas have enjoyed broad and enduring international success and are often performed throughout the English-speaking world.

Our company seeks to re-imagine their work for the 21st century. We have set The Mikado in postmodern Japan and Princes Ida in Gilded Age New York. Whatever the approach, audiences always enjoy G&S. Their satire, which mocks the contradictions between our public personas and our private selves, remains fresh and tangy. So long as society is victimized by snobbery, hypocrisy, cruelty, and stupidity, people will need the wit and wisdom of Gilbert and Sullivan. We are proud to continue their legacy.